Food Allergies, Sensitivities, and Your Health
Our bodies are made up of the food and drink we consume. These foods can be nourishing and contribute to good health, or can be toxic or harmful, leading to sickness and poor health. Allergies and food sensitivities can be annoying, frustrating, or even deadly. I am by no means an expert in allergies, but having dealt with my fair share, and figuring out how to work with them has completely changed my life. I’ve decided to share my personal story, in the hopes it may help others.
When I was in my early 30s, with two little ones to take care of, I found myself exhausted all the time. Not exhausted to the extent of someone with chronic fatigue syndrome, but just enough to do the minimum to get by at work and in my personal life, but with no energy left for anything else. My joints and muscles felt sore and achy. I spent the majority of my free time laying on the couch. Cooking meals, playing with the kids, and cleaning the house all seemed like overwhelming tasks. And I wasn’t exercising at all. I kept wondering what was going on, and coming up with explanations. I’d say to myself, “I’m tired because I’ve got two little kids to take care of”, or “If only I was exercising regularly I’d have more energy”, or “Wow, turning 30 sucks!” But at some point I realized that something else was going on, that this was not normal, and that being in my 30s shouldn’t feel that different than being in my late 20s!
I talked to a doctor who recommended I do an allergy test. I did a full panel, in which they took a blood sample and tested 100 different foods, looking for the antibodies produced as a result of an allergic response. There is also a panel to test for environmental allergies, but since exposure to those is harder to control, I chose to just start with the foods. The tests would take a couple of weeks to come back and in the meantime, the doctor told me to try eating more protein in the morning to see if that improved my energy level.
I made up some mini quiches without the crusts, packed with eggs, cheese and veggies. These seemed like a great, healthy source of protein, and I ate a couple for breakfast every morning while I waited for the results. Can you predict where this story is going? After two weeks of eating eggs every morning I felt worse than ever. Not only was I exhausted and achy, but I couldn’t even think clearly. I was walking around in a fog. When the results came back showing that I had a high allergic response to the eggs, in the 90th percentile, I absolutely knew it was true. And even though I loved eggs, and had always felt like they were so healthy, I was happy to give them up immediately just to feel better! Cheeses and dairy were also high on the list and since I was already vegetarian, that’s when I realized, “Crap, I guess I’m vegan now…”
And yes, once I stopped eating the foods I was allergic to I started feeling 100% better!! Because my immune system wasn’t being bombarded, my overall health improved too! That was more than 10 years ago and now in my mid-40s I feel healthier, stronger and more energetic than I did in my early 30s. And I believe this is the way I am meant to feel. This is the health that I would wish for everyone!
What I want to point out in the story is that I had no idea that the symptoms I was experiencing could be related to food allergies. In fact, it took me a really long time to even realize I was experiencing symptoms at all! I had just come to accept the way I felt as normal. After I figured out what was going on it made me truly wonder how many people are walking around feeling mildly sick and having no idea there may a simple explanation and solution to lead to better health.
Around this same time I had a co-worker who was going through something very similar. She was experiencing pretty severe pain in her joints that had been bothering her for years. She had been tested for everything under the sun including rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid imbalance, vitamin deficiencies, and anything else she or the doctors could think of. All her tests kept coming back as normal. It was at the point where the doctors were telling her that it must be all in her head, and that she should just suck it up, get over it, and move on with her life. She’d leave the doctors in tears, filled with frustration and fear. When I told her about my results she immediately said, “I bet it’s dairy.” Somehow she had a strong intuition that dairy was causing her problems and without even seeing an allergist, she just cut it out of her diet. And… a miracle. Her symptoms went away.
Food sensitivities and intolerances can be trickier to figure out than allergies. They may not show up on any test, but yet your body is still reacting to them. I have my fair share of these as well! It may take an Elimination Diet, or trial and error to figure these out. Many problems related to digestion and skin can be a result of the foods. Issues such as rashes, acne, eczema, indigestion, bloating, IBS, diarrhea, and migraines, have all been found to be triggered by certain foods in some people.
This all may seem like more trouble than it’s worth. Believe me, I’d love to sit down to a big omelette for breakfast, or eat whatever I wanted to without consequence. But my health, energy, and well-being are more important to me than any food item I can think of!! In my opinion, yes, it’s worth it!